Vehicle: Train
Train with tunnels in it   (+7, -1)  [vote for, against]
Save time at level crossings

Long freight trains can have upwards of 100 rail cars. We all hate stopping for them at level crossings. Especially on the prairies.

Replace every 10th or 20th rail car with a "tunnel car" which is really just a wheeled metal arch that connects with adjacent rail cars. The clearance under the tunnel car is maximized to allow lateral flow of objects such as automobiles, motorcycles, and fast joggers.

When the train chugs through a level crossing, motorists have the option to speed through one of the tunnel cars, thereby saving time, frustration, traffic congestion, and wear and tear on brake pads. The plus side for trains is that they don't have to slow down as much or at all, and they don't need to bleat their warning horns as much.

Tunnel cars can be fixed with EM beacons and automobiles with sensors. The sensors detect and report to the automobile's computer the velocity and range of the tunnel car. The computer can then calculate a target speed for the motorist to make the tunnel and display this on the dash console in large red digits (preferably with accompanying klaxon). An option would be for the computer to temporarily seize control of the automobile and pilot it through the tunnel car.

For low-end road vehicles, we would post a sensor-equipped electronic sign 200m before the crossing. The sign displays the speed a motorist must hold to safely make the next tunnel car.
-- the porpoise, Oct 28 2013

What could possibly go wrong?
-- swimswim, Oct 28 2013


As a pedestrian who frequently has to wait for trains, I'd love a more sensible and legal option than just clambering over the couplings on the damn slow-moving hundred-car versions. [+]
-- gisho, Oct 28 2013


This is a really bad idea, but let's pretend it's not so I can quibble over minor details.

// The plus side for trains is that they don't have to slow down as much or at all //

Yes, they would. At the standard 15mph for congested areas, a standard 50' boxcar passes you by in just over one second. Out in the country, they go much faster. A 75' 'tunnel car', the longest you could make one to fit on most lines, would only have a 40'-45' gap between the wheelsets. That leaves you less than one second to thread the needle. Even in a McLaren that's an instant insurance claim.

// and they don't need to bleat their warning horns as much //

Yes, they would. The rules for when drivers must sound their whistles are already to lenient.

// Tunnel cars can be fixed with EM beacons and automobiles with sensors //

All train cars in North America are aleady equipped with EM tags.

[gisho], you may or may not know how effing dangerous it is to climb between moving train cars (or stopped cars, since they may begin to move without warning), but do you know that it's also a federal crime?
-- Alterother, Oct 28 2013


Might work in the USA where the trains move slower than mules running backwards, but good luck in Europe, Japan, China and some other countries, where 200mph is more of a norm. Totally un-needed in the UK of course, where the trains are so frequently not moving at all. (despite being the most expensive in the world to use)
-- xenzag, Oct 28 2013


//That leaves you less than one second to thread the needle.//

The actual threading of the needle is incidental. It's the lining-up that's critical, and for that there's ample time in flatter areas where trains move quickly.

//Even in a McLaren that's an instant insurance claim.//

Installing the sensors on your ride would be reportable to your insurance company and your rates would be adjusted accordingly.
-- the porpoise, Oct 28 2013


I should think your rates would immediately vanish along with your policy, because installing said sensors would make it obvious that you intend to drive your car through a moving train.
-- Alterother, Oct 28 2013


This is a good idea except for being all wrong.

Make train carriages with on- and off-ramps instead. If you mis-time things, you can just wait on the top until the next level crossing arrives.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Oct 28 2013


//Make train carriages with on- and off-ramps instead.//

Nah. Too many folks would use that as a free ride.
-- the porpoise, Oct 28 2013


// 40'-45' gap between the wheelsets //

Is the 75' length limitation based on how far over the edge of the tracks the car would be as it cuts the corner, or how much side-loading the wheelsets can handle when being pulled around the corner? If it's a size thing, we can get around that by making the bridge car very narrow in the center. If the limitation is side-loading the wheels, I dont see an easy way around that.

// ... less than one second to thread the needle. Even in a McLaren ... // Actually you don't really need a Mclaren to make it, assuming you have good timing.

Assuming the train car has a width of 10.8' and an average car width of 6' and length of 18.5', if the train and car are traveling at the same speed, the minimum length for the tunnel would be 18.5' + 10.8' + 6' = 35.3', so with a 40' gap in the train, you can make it with more than 2' to spare on each corner. Okay I wouldn't actually want to personally be in that car, but it is possible.

I _am_ a bit concerned about most existing crossings. It seems like many of these have quite a bit of a hump going over the tracks, so at any significant speed, becoming airborn could be a concern. Also it seems very common to have tracks running parallel to another road, so if someone is trying to go through a train at high speed on a cross street, they won't be able to stop at the intersection before/after crossing the tracks.
-- scad mientist, Oct 28 2013


What [swimswim] said.

We think that this is a wonderful idea, as it will yield plenty of material for more episodes of "Destroyed In Seconds".

It should be possible to place wagers on individual road vehicles making it across in one piece, although in some jurisdictions this might be considered off-track betting ...
-- 8th of 7, Oct 28 2013


//        Is the 75' length limitation based on how far over the edge of the tracks the car would be as it cuts the corner, or how much side-loading the wheelsets can handle when being pulled around the corner? //

Yes.
-- Alterother, Oct 28 2013


Will the sensors know you're pulling a trailer?
-- cudgel, Oct 28 2013


[Alterother], note I said 'has to wait'. I have merely been severly tempted.

On reflection, the cars would need some way to pass over the wheels. Either we'd have to replace Level Crossings with Ramped Crossings, or the ramps would have to be part of the tunnel car.

Which might be a good safety feature: fold-out ramps, that stay up when the train is at speed and are only extended when it's crossing a road at a slow enough pace the cars are starting to back up.
-- gisho, Oct 28 2013


I can't see any holes in this plan, except, you know, the whole death thing, and, of course, the tunnels themselves.
-- AusCan531, Oct 28 2013


'could put the train wheels on stilts; that way there'd be room underneath to pass through if you're fast enough.
-- FlyingToaster, Oct 29 2013


This sounds like an ideal application for a trebuchet.
-- 8th of 7, Oct 29 2013


Yes, a trebuchet would take care of those pesky billboards nicely.
-- Alterother, Oct 29 2013



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